Yesterday was my first real off-road experience at T15 (apologies to Pengerang).
Before we started, my Giant needed tuning after about 60 km last week and another 18 km before we hit T15. Chi helped to tighten the rear dérailleur’s cable, but there was another problem – my gears kept on changing randomly without my input while I was pedalling. Also, I sometimes needed to change up or down twice to get the gear to change.
Chi tried his best to solve the issues*, but my ride was afflicted with my misfiring gears. Coupled with my unfamiliarity with the course, I was often on the wrong gear, which lead to a fair bit of dismounting to push the bike.
You live and learn.
It was still fun. Very different from road riding. And it was a learning experience. Here are some off-road tips I picked up from Chi and Siva (not in any order, although I think the list is roughly chronological):
- Release some air from the tyres when going off-road. But not too much – you can get punctures if your tyre pressure is too low!
- Echoing Ghostbusters (don’t cross the streams), you shouldn’t cross-chain e.g. lowest front gear with high rear gears or vice-versa. The front and rear dérailleurs should used as such:
- Front | Rear
- 3 | 9, 8, 7
- 2 | 7, 6, 5, 4, 3
- 1 | 3, 2, 1
- Use your index finger for braking. That’s all you need if you have disc brakes. The rest of your fingers should holding the handlebars – you get better control this way.
- When going downhill, raise yourself up from saddle and position yourself rearwards. This keeps your CG low so that you don’t tumble over the bike.
- When going uphill, push your body forward.
- When not pedalling, keep the pedals at 3 and 9 o’clock for maximum clearance.
Updates – things I just remembered:
- Before going on trail: lower seat post; remove all loose items e.g. lights.
Next on the to-buy list:
- Shifters with two-way release? Chi pointed out that you can use your thumb to release… wait, you can’t do that on my bike. My shifters only have the index finger release. Inconvenient since the index finger should be on the brake lever. (Interestingly, my foldie’s shifters can – in fact, can only – be operated entirely by thumb.)
- Pedals? Siva pointed out last week that platform pedals will be better than the ones that came with the bike. Chi also said something to that effect, but he recommended a brand of shoes to use with my pedals. The pedals I’ve highlighted is a combination pedal – one side for normal use, the other for SPDs (for when I eventually decide to try SPDs, it seems inevitable). I think it’s an upgrade from what I have, and I can progress with it.
* The thing that was causing the skipping gears was my profuse perspiration, apparently. Louis at Tay Junction (Bukit Timah) noticed white stuff on the inside of the rear dérailleur cable – salt from dried perspiration! It was affecting the gear changes. Some lube and a little tuning solved the problems.
HT to Siva for the nice photo above!